This week I am pleased to be joined by the lovely Gilli Allan. Gilli is an author with two books published in the late 80’s by ‘Love Stories’ a small independent press which sadly folded. However she kept writing, never gave up, and has recently published Torn and Life Class with Kindle Direct Publishing.
Q. Thanks for stopping in Gilli, self-publishing your books must have been very exciting. Can you tell us more about your writing? Do you have an agent? What kind of books do you write?
A. I’m not currently agented, a few have come and gone, and there’ve been one or two near misses! I write contemporary women’s fiction but it’s hard to find a sub-genre under whose banner to slot my writing. I guess this is the reason I’ve not been mainstream published for so many years and possibly the reason Love Stories failed; they couldn’t get the distribution or marketing push necessary to achieve success for themselves or their authors. It’s taken me years to realise that unless you can pitch your books in a few pithy words, you’re unlikely to sell them. But I’ll have a go! Reality romance? Love without froth? Subverted romance? Edgy relationship fiction?
I’d say my target market is probably women in their thirties and upwards, who still want the rewards of a good love story, but at the same time want an intelligent and more demanding read – a book they can get their teeth into. They may have either outgrown or want an antidote to category romance or chick-lit.
Interestingly, whilst my first traditionally published books ‘Just Before Dawn’ and ‘Desires and Dreams’ were around 80,00 – 90,00 words long, my books since then have seemed to settle at between 120, 000 – 140,000 words.
Q. So what about your most memorable writing successes and rejections?
A. I wrote throughout my teenage years and unsurprisingly, with such little world experience I never finished anything. I stopped writing when I went to art school and was then focused on developing my career as an advertising illustrator. I started writing again with the serious intention of being published by Mills & Boon when I was at home with my young son.
The theme of the first novel I ever finished ‘Just Before Dawn’ was an unplanned pregnancy and miscarriage with a subsequent relationship with the Obs / Gynae consultant (don’t laugh). Probably a step too far for HM&B, but shortly after their rejection Love Stories expressed an interest, only 4 months from writing ‘The End.’ Love Stories also took my second novel and looking back I now find this astounding and definitely memorable, given my subsequent experience.
Rejections – well, I have sent hundreds of submissions over the years. Most responses were polite, some kind and encouraging and some fairly terse! Thankfully I have never had a rejection which questioned why I thought I could write. If you’ve had a few rejections by post you will know it’s a single page, if not just a complements slip so you’re able to guess what the verdict is before you even open the letter. Imagine my excitement when on one particular morning a very thick and heavy letter plopped onto the door mat. I ripped it open and, for a moment, could not get my head around what I was looking at. Then it dawned on me. It was my full submission returned to me and across the bottom of my letter was “Not for us” in an unsigned scrawl, nothing else!
If I had to sum up my writing journey to date since initial publication it’s been a continuous process of knocking my head against brick walls and I’ve got the lumps to prove it. And as the years went by those brick walls only got higher and thicker until I discovered Kindle Direct Publishing.
Q. Wow! What an inspirational story about perseverance. So bearing all that in mind, what would be your top three tips for writers?
To succeed as a writer you need certain qualities:-
1) You need to believe in yourself, when no one seems to.
2) You also need to be obsessive, tenacious, resilient,obstinate and obsessive. It doesn’t hurt to have a selfish streak. In other words you need to be bloody minded.
3) Most important of all, if you truly believe you’ve got what it takes, don’t just talk about it, do it! There are always reasons to put it off. But don’t wait until you have the time, until the children are off your hands, until you’ve gone part-time or you’ve retired. If you procrastinate now, you may never begin, let alone finish. If you really have a book (or books) in you, you will find a way.
Writing is my main occupation and I don’t really have a typical day, it varies with where I am in the process. Over the last week I have written a short story which I’ve submitted for inclusion in the RNA Anthology. At the weekend I did a radio interview with Lee Middleton at Stafford FM, for their Sunday book club. My book, LIFE CLASS, had been chosen book of the week on a previous Sunday.
But these are far from typical activities. Most of my time at the moment seems to be spent answering emails, tweeting, promoting, writing blog posts and doing on-line interviews! Which is OK but it’s time consuming and can be a bit frustrating.
I hate starting a new book. I’m an ‘into the mist’ type of writer, so I rarely have more than my characters (plus their back stories) and a scenario which brings them together. I may have one or two planks of the story, but usually that is all. I just have to grit my teeth and start. I have to sit at the computer and force myself to write something … and hope. Gradually, after a period of wading through porridge, the story begins to unfold before me.
But even then, I won’t necessarily have an over-view of the whole of the story. In TORN, I didn’t know how it was all going to conclude until I was within a few chapters of the end. I think it made the story fresh. If I didn’t know what was going to happen, the reader wouldn’t be able to guess. With LIFE CLASS I knew roughly who and where, but I didn’t how or what.
Once the story has caught fire, and I apologise for all these mixed metaphors – mist, porridge and fire! – writing is bliss. It’s like being transported to an altered state. You have to enforce discipline in all other areas of your life – cleaning your teeth and getting dressed – the writing part is compulsive.
Q. A dedicated woman… So lastly can you tell us what your favourite Wine is?
A. Champagne, of course, as long as it’s brut, and I’m very fond of Pinot Grigio, although I’m rather put out to find it gaining the sort of ‘Essex girl’ reputation that Chardonnay once had. I’m also very fond of bog standard supermarket whiskey, which I drink half and half with classic dry ginger ale – not Canada dry, not American, and definitely not diet, they are all too far too sweet. To sum up, I don’t think I’m keen on anything that is too sweet!
Thanks for stopping in and sharing with us so openly and honestly Gilli. Good luck with the books.
LIFE CLASS is available to buy now at http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B007XWFURQ
For now, happy writing everyone! Nikki x